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The cost of having a bloated curriculum

By Vision Reporter

Added 11th July 2004 03:00 AM

THE recent regional conference on secondary education that ended in the Senegalese capital - Dakar, highlighted a number of problems plaguing Africa’s secondary education sub-sector.

THE recent regional conference on secondary education that ended in the Senegalese capital - Dakar, highlighted a number of problems plaguing Africa’s secondary education sub-sector.

By John Eremu
in Dakar

THE recent regional conference on secondary education that ended in the Senegalese capital - Dakar, highlighted a number of problems plaguing Africa’s secondary education sub-sector.

From low investment, to a costly, outmoded and bloated curriculum, Uganda, like many other countries in Sub-Saharan Africa must take radical reforms if it is to expand and efficiently sustain the secondary sub-sector.

A recent study has found out that Uganda’s secondary school curriculum, which consists of up to 16 subjects, was too costly to implement because of the many specialised teachers required to handle the various options.

Prof. Keith Lewin, who did a study on increasing enrolment in Uganda’s secondary sub-sector said the unit cost Uganda spends on the general secondary schools was seven times that spent on primary pupils. “Compared to other countries, Uganda is above the average of four-and-a-half times spent by other Sub-Saharan Africa countries,” Lewin said.

“If all children completed primary and attended lower secondary, and 50% attended upper secondary in public institutions at the current cost ratios, more than the entire education budget would be needed to support secondary schools,” added Lewin, the director centre for international education at Sussex University - UK.

Lewin said the many subjects in our curriculum could effectively be reduced to a core of six and the excess teachers retrained to handle more than one subject. “Many people agree that the core subjects should comprise of the national language, mathematics, science and an international language, which for Uganda is also the official language - English.

These core subjects could constitute 70% of the teaching time and the other 30% taken up by the other subjects considered relevant to particular rural areas,” he argued.

Yusuf Nsubuga, the commissioner for secondary education, admitted that the curriculum was overloaded but that they were acting on it. “From Lewin’s report and other findings, the ministry prepared a post primary education and training framework approved by cabinet last year,” Nsubuga said. “But one of the issues already being implemented is hat all schools are now required to implement a core curriculum of seven subjects and a maximum of 14 given their different conditions.

The seven core subjects are mathematics, English language, geography, history, physics, chemistry and biology,” Nsubuga said.

The commissioner, however, said they disagreed with Lewin because he only based his report on financial considerations and that the curriculum should emphasise numeracy, literacy and foundation for sciences, not taking into account that in Uganda, secondary education was a private - public partnership.

“We have two sets of schools,” Nsubuga said. “Those offering general curriculum shouldn’t go beyond 14 subjects for senior one and two and not more than eight subjects for senior three and four.

For schools offering a comprehensive curriculum, where the boards of governors want children exposed to vocational, commercial subjects and computer learning, they can offer a varied curriculum.

But in the deployment of teachers, we will mainly be concerned with the core subjects,” Nsubuga explained.

Nsubuga, however, disputed Lewin’s assertion that the input of Uganda’s teachers were far below those of the developed world and South Africa. “If Uganda’s secondary school teachers taught the same number of periods a week as they do in England, Germany, France and Japan, probably 30% or more children would have access to secondary schooling. In England, teachers use up to 85% of their time in class. In Uganda most secondary school teachers teach less than 50% of the time,” Lewin said.

But Nsubuga said the periods handled by Ugandan teachers was comparable to international standards after the rationalisation of the teaching loads.

“It is now a requirement that if you are teaching ‘O’ level, you must have a minimum of 24 periods and 18 for ‘A’ level,” Nsubuga said. “The international standard is that a teacher teaches half of the period. Our teaching load like in Britain is about 50 to 40 periods a week. So if a teacher is handling 24 periods, that is okay because in addition, teachers are supposed to supervise other activities like games, sports and cleanliness,” he added.


However, Dr. Mamadou Ndoye, the executive secretary of the Association for the Development of Education in Africa (ADEA) said such should take into consideration the challenges facing the youth today such as the ability to resist manipulation, inculcation of a patriotic and a democratic culture, avoidance of diseases such as HIV/AIDS and such technological competencies needed in a globalised world.

Nsubuga said the curriculum was also undergoing reform.

The cost of having a bloated curriculum

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